Abnormal psychology

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Abnormal psychology is the scientific study of abnormal behavior in order to describe, predict, explain, and change abnormal patterns of functioning. Abnormal psychology in clinical psychology studies the nature of psychopathology, its causes, and its treatments. Of course, the definition of what constitutes 'abnormal' has varied across time and across cultures. Individuals also vary in what they regard as normal or abnormal behavior. In general, abnormal psychology can be described as an area of psychology that studies people who are consistently unable to adapt and function effectively in a variety of conditions. The four main contributing factors to how well an individual is able to adapt include their genetic makeup, physical condition, learning and reasoning, and socialization.



In North America, the 'bible' of abnormal psychology and psychiatry is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. The current version of the book is known as DSM IV-TR. It lists a set of disorders and provides detailed descriptions on what constitutes a disorder such as Major Depression or Anxiety Disorder. It also gives general descriptions of how frequent the disorder occurs in the general population, whether it is more common in males or females and other such facts. The diagnostic process uses five dimensions called 'axes' to ascertain symptoms and overall functioning of the individual. These axes are as follows

  • Axis I - Particular clinical syndromes
  • Axis II - Permanent Problems (Personality Disorders, Mental Retardation)
  • Axis III - General medical conditions
  • Axis IV - Psychosocial/environmental problems
  • Axis V - Global assessment of functioning (often referred to as GAF)

Part of abnormal psychology has to do with phobias. A phobia is a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous. A person suffering from a phobia may find it hard to socialize, work, or go about their everyday life. Phobias belong to a large group of mental problems known as anxiety disorders which includes panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Phobias can be diagnosed after extensive interview with a mental health professional or someone specializing in abnormal behavior/psychology.


The major international nosologic system for the classification of mental disorders can be found in the most recent version of the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10). The ICD-10 has been used by World Health Organization (WHO) Member States since 1994. Chapter five covers some 300 "Mental and behavioural disorders." The ICD-10's chapter five has been influenced by APA's DSM-IV and there is a great deal of concordance between the two. WHO maintains free access to the ICD-10 Online . Below are the main categories of disorders:

  • F00-F09 Organic, including symptomatic, mental disorders
  • F10-F19 Mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use
  • F20-F29 Schizophrenia, schizotypal and delusional disorders
  • F30-F39 Mood [affective] disorders
  • F40-F48 Neurotic, stress-related and somatoform disorders
  • F50-F59 Behavioural syndromes associated with physiological disturbances and physical factors
  • F60-F69 Disorders of adult personality and behaviour
  • F70-F79 Mental retardation
  • F80-F89 Disorders of psychological development
  • F90-F98 Behavioural and emotional disorders with onset usually occurring in childhood and adolescence
  • F99 Unspecified mental disorder

See also

ar:علم نفس الشواذ bg:Патопсихология